In an interview filmed at Aviation Africa earlier this month, before the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam outlined a broad set of measures for the airline which would include subsidiaries including hotels and package holidays to run alongside its MRO and training arms.

Gebremariam also explains his decision for continuining to serve China during the COVID-10 outbreak, which drew criticism Ethiopian from other African airlines and countries.

Airline plans to buy aircraft operational for 20 years

During the interview Gebremariam explained how Ethiopian Airlines would adopt a long-term strategy which would beat quarter to quarter targets in the West. Another aspect was to buy aircraft which would operate for 20 years. The airline currently has a mixed Airbus/Boeing long-haul fleet with A350 and 787Dreamliner.

The carrier is also developing an interest in investing in airlines in different African countries. Gebremariam explained his views on the future of intra-Africa trade and Ethiopian had risen above the suspicion in other African countries and helped develop conservative, disciplined growth strategies with multiple brands with a single purchasing plan.

The new competitive challenge of Qatar’s investment in Rwandair could change the map of African airline movements.

Questions remain from Boeing disaster

On the anniversary of the Ethiopian Airlines ET302 crash, Gebremariam also talked about the emotional shock and reaction of the airline and explains his position on the future of the Max, the airline’s relationship with Boeing and thoughts on any return to service. One year after the crash of Flight 302 from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, which killed all 157 people on board, Gebremariam said there were still questions which remain unanswered. He explained: “When Boeing gives us the exact date when the airplane is going to fly, then we will make the assessment. Will we be able to convince our crew, our pilots, our customers and how long does it take us and those kind of questions we will be answering at that time.”